Loving Life!

I had my first zone conference this week! I learned so much (including how to check all the fluid levels in my car!) President and sister Chesnut are seriously the best, I love listening to them speak. All of the missionaries who are leaving soon were invited to bear their testimonies, which was so powerful. They all agreed on 2 things: their time in the mission flew by, and they wish that they could stay longer. It made me really think about how much I have to cherish my time here. I want every day in my mission to feel like the best day of my life (and some days that is easier than others!)

The six missionaries in our Spanish branch were invited to a wedding this week for two members in the branch. We went to the reception as our dinner for that night. It was so funny because all the missionaries kept talking about how trunky they were getting being at a wedding. It didn't have the same effect on me; I think I'm still scared of that whole "marriage" thing. That's good though, I'll let it stay that way until I get home!

I don't think I fully knew why I was serving a mission before I came.This week, I was reading my patriarchal blessing, and I realized the reason: before coming to earth, I must have looked some of my spirit brothers and sisters in the eye and promised them that I would find them, and teach them. I have never been so motivated to find people! Here is something to consider: I bet every single one of you, even those not serving missions, made similar promises. Your friends and family members who don't have this amazing gospel might be waiting for you to share it with them, even if they don't know it. Prayerfully consider who needs to be reminded of their divine potential.

-- Hermana Nielsen

-The Reno Zone at Zone Conference!

-At zone conference, they used "pineapples" as a metaphor for prepared people. Don't question it, just go with it

-The wedding cake was pretty cool! Too bad we didn't have time to stay and eat it :(

-My companion and I are matching today. We are so cute

What an awesome week! I had my first exchange on Tuesday/Wednesday. My STL came down to my area, so I felt a lot of pressure to know the people and the area! Luckily Hermana Gattin has served in my area before, so she was at least familiar with the roads and everything. Hermana Gattin is awesome, it was so fun working with her. 

We've started doing service at this organization that helps women in poverty. Many of the women are trying to learn English, so we help them practice. Last week I had the opportunity to help a woman, who only spoke Spanish, to check her email. It is so cool how knowing another language is already opening the doors for me to serve others! 

It rained for the first time yesterday! I took a picture because I wouldn't believe it either if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes! The rain reminded me of a talk by president Uchtdorf; I have definitely felt blessings "raining" down from heaven this week!

In Branch Council yesterday, I tried to say "pero..." but I accidentally said "perro" which means "dog." My branch president thought it was the funniest thing. I am just too good at rolling my r's. What a funny problem for a gringa to have!

This Saturday we had a branch picnic, so the rest of the week Hermana Martinez and I invited everyone we possibly could to come. On Friday we decided to stop by and see an investigator named Maria, and she was actually home! We were so excited, because we've been trying to track this lady down for weeks. We have seriously been stalking her house; we thought she disappeared off the face of the earth. We didn't have time for a lesson with her, but we talked to her and her kids for a few minutes and invited them to the picnic. Saturdaymorning, Hermana Martinez and I were stopping by the house of another family to try and make them come to the picnic. Well, they never answered the door, but I told Hermana Martinez: "All I want is for Maria to come. If she comes I will be so happy." My wise trainer then asked, "Have you prayed about it?" so I decided to stop and say a prayer right there. Seriously 10 seconds into praying, the phone rang, and it was Maria! We were a little scared because we figured she would be calling to give us an excuse. We answered the phone, and she said that she was already at the park, and she wanted to know where we were! We were so excited, we ran back to the car and drove over as fast as we could. Talk about a miracle. She came with 4 of her kids and 2 grand kids! It was awesome, definitely the best part of my week. 
Don't forget: prayer is powerful!

Me Encanta Ver el Templo!

Apparently for Latin people, looking at your watch is really offensive. This is so hard for me because 1) I'm a missionary, I have appointments and I need to be punctual, and 2) not knowing the time stresses me out. And, of course, these people love talking. Being on time has been a struggle this week. 

I got to go to a baptism this week! The central elders baptized a family of 4, who have only been investigating for a month! We call them a miracle family. Hermana Martinez and I were able to teach the restoration, which was awesome. 

It's been a long week of more canceled appointments and disappointments. As a missionary though, different things hurt me... I have found a new appreciation for 2 Nephi 33:3. It's so hard when investigators and less actives just don't understand that this can help them! One man said something about how our church can't do anything to help "incurable diseases." I've come to appreciate so much that the atonement is for everyone, and Christ is waiting to take our sorrows from us.

The temple trip this week was SO amazing! The Reno temple layout is very similar to the one in Raleigh, and the endowment rooms and celestial room are exactly the same! I felt like I was back home. I was reminded that temples are the house of the Lord everywhere, and they are as close as we can come to our heavenly home. I am so lucky that I got to go to the temple my first transfer! (The pictures are with my companion, my district, and my mission mom!)

Delight... and discouragement

This week has been rather dichotomous. The past few days have been really rough. Friday we only had 2 lessons, and Saturday we (barely) had 1. We spent the remainder of those days listening to our calls go to voicemail (on a side note, I have decided that voicemail is actually my favorite sound, just because talking on the phone-especially in Spanish- stresses me out so much), trying to track down potentials, and standing on doorsteps wondering if someone wasn't home, they were ignoring us, or they just didn't hear the first 3 times we knocked. Even in the evenings when we had "set" appointments, almost all of them fell through. We had to go home early both nights to do some serious planning because we literally had no one to see. It's mostly been difficult for Hermana Martinez because she feels like an awful trainer. Overall, I think it's been a positive experience because we have become more organized and more determined as a result. I absolutely love love love the classic missionary video "Missionary work and the Atonement" with Elder Holland (if you haven't seen it before, you should look it up, it is awesome) He points out that we are representatives of Jesus Christ, and why should it be easy for us when it was never easy for Him?

On the bright side, I saw my first big miracle this week! I have had lots of cool experiences during my mission for sure, lots of mini-miracles, if you will, but this week I gained a greater testimony of revelation. Tuesday morning my companion and I were planning for where we would go finding. Hermana Martinez chose a street for us. I didn't think much about it, because I didn't think it would matter where we went. We got to the street and found that it was a richer neighborhood, and we both thought "great, we aren't going to find anyone who speaks Spanish here." It was earlier in the afternoon too, so most people were probably at work. The first door we knocked on, nobody answered, so we kept walking. I saw one house across the street that had two cars in front, so I figured there would be a higher probability of someone being home. I told my companion we should try that house. We knocked on the door, with the intention of asking whomever was home if thy knew anybody in the area who speaks Spanish.  Well, the woman who came to the door was from Mexico! We talked to her in Spanish for a while and she eventually invited us into her home. Turns out her husband just passed away a few months ago, so we were able to share our message of eternal families with her. She already has so much faith, she said that Christ has helped her so much through this time. She told us she wasn't really interested in changing churches, but we still got her phone number and left her a Book of Mormon, so we will see what happens. Even if she never becomes and investigator, I think our message helped her. If anything, I feel like this experience was more for Hermana Martinez and I. 

Language mistake of the week: This is so embarrassing, but we were having a mini lesson outside with two young men that we had just started talking to. I asked them who wanted to read a scripture. Apparently they told me that they can't read, but I didn't understand what they said for some reason, so I handed them the scriptures anyway! I felt so bad. I guess I can't just assume that everyone knows how to read!

Favorite part of the Week: We gave a spiritual thought to a member, and afterwards she was talking about how learning another language is difficult (she wants to learn English). Hermana Martinez said "Hermana Nielsen would understand, she is learning." and the member said "Oh learning English?" I told her no, Spanish, and she said that she couldn't even tell, the thought I was fluent! 

So this week I learned that I'm good at speaking and bad at listening. Hmm.

I never have any time to take pictures, so here are a couple last minute ones. BUT we are going to the temple tomorrow, so I will get plenty of pictures then!

First Week in the Field!

Last Tuesday was probably the longest day of my life. I had to wake up at 1:30 a.m. Mexico city time (which is 11:30 p.m. Reno time!) and our flight didn't even leave until 6:30. We had to run through the L.A. airport in order to make it to our connecting flight. When we got to Reno, President and Sister Chesnut were waiting for us in the airport! They are awesome. We had a quick lunch at the mission headquarters (not the mission home) and then we went to all sorts of meetings. We met our new companions, and then we went straight to our areas! I am staying in Reno to serve so that I will be able to stay in a Spanish branch, at least for my first couple transfers. I thought they would let me take a nap or something when I arrived but nope, I still had to wait until10:30! The first couple days here I was so so tired. My trainer told me I needed to be happier but I just did not have the energy for that haha.

My new companion is amazing though! Her name is Hermana Martinez, and she is so hard working and obedient. I've learned so much from her. And, she is from Puerto Rico! I really wanted my first companion to be a native speaker, so I was so excited when I met her. The nice thing is that I get excellent practice listening to Spanish. The hard part is that, apparently in Puerto Rico they think it's okay to just drop the end of some of their words?! Especially S's. In Spanish though, conjugations, gender, and number are so important. I'm more used to in now, but I hope I keep my Mexican accent! The best part about Hermana Martinez being Latina, though, is something that I hadn't considered before. Every time I start a conversation with a Latino in Spanish, I feel so racist, and they probably think so too. so, I always let my companion say the first Spanish word. I don't know what I'm going to do when I have a white companion though, haha!

So far my best experience actually happened on the plane ride here. On the plane from L.A. to Reno, the 3 Hermanas coming in from Mexico happened to sit next to a couple women (a mother and her daughter) who only spoke Spanish! They were really interested in listening to our message. I don't even remember all the things I taught them, but they both accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon. They are both from Mexico, but they were coming to Reno to visit their sister/ daughter. We got her address, and turns out, they will be staying in my area! Hermana Martinez and I stopped by, and we have an appointment with them later today! We will get them started for the Missionaries in Mexico. 

Worst thing about Reno: The heat. The high (that I've seen) has been 106 degrees, and if I had to guess, I would say that the low was about... 106 degrees. I'm seriously melting. The worst is when we have an appointment with a man and there aren't any women at home so we have to teach him outside.

Best thing about Reno: The people! It's what everyone always says, but it's not something you can understand until you actually meet the people whom you serve. I've only been here a week, and it's still hard for me to remember names (especially all these Latino names) but everyone here is amazing. The members are so good to us, and I've had so much great food.

Yesterday I had to introduce myself to the branch (in Spanish of course) and I think it was okay, except that I totally forgot to close in the name of Jesus Christ! My trainer told me when I sat down. That was awkward, haha, but I won't make that mistake again!

Our branch president, Presidente Castiblanco, is awesome! He is so fun to talk to. Yesterday we went to have dinner with him and his family, and apparently it is a tradition that the new missionaries have to try one of their tiny piquin peppers. I had never heard of that before, but man was it hot! My mouth hurt for a good 30 minutes. 

This has been quite an adjustment for me. I feel like the CCM was a piece of cake because it was just like college (an the homework was a lot easier!) but now in the field, it's quite a different experience. I think I'm starting to get the hang of things, but I know I still have a lot to learn!